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Tips for Buying Your First Home in Harrisburg

Written by Savannah Marie, Community Blogger | Mar 23, 2017 10:52 AM

It's easy to see why Harrisburg is an attractive place for young people to live. After all, it's right along the riverfront, it's dotted with hip shops and it's reasonably affordable. But for young, first-time homebuyers, navigating the pitfalls of the real estate market is by no means an easy task. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you find your dream home, right here in Harrisburg.

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Find What's Important

When you start looking for a house, you need to make a clear distinction between what you want and what you need. A heating system? Yeah, you need that. A pool? Not so much.

One of the best exercises you can do is picture your dream home and think backwards from there. Take your dream home and consider it in terms of your budget. Chances are good this will eliminate some of the more luxurious features right there. Then, look over what features are must-haves -- these are the ones you'll be willing to pay a bit extra for.

Continue trimming down your house until it's in line with your budget and has all the important features. Now, when you go to look at houses in Harrisburg, you'll be able to judge the houses by how well they match your true needs, rather than your dreams.

Know Your Mortgages

For the uninitiated, mortgages are a tricky business, so let's start with the basics. A mortgage is essentially a large loan used to finance a house. If you fail to make payments on the loan, the bank can repossess your house.

One of the hardest choices you'll make is deciding what type of mortgage is right for you. There are two main types of mortgages:

  • Fixed rate mortgages are exactly what they sound like. These packages offer competitive rates and the safety of knowing your mortgage payment will never increase.
  • Adjustable rate mortgages, on the other hand, have a low starting rate that's guaranteed for several years after the initial loan. After that period, the rates adjust annually based on the market. These loans do have a cap built in, so the rates can't rise beyond a certain percent.

Determining which mortgage and lender is right for you is a tough task. Fortunately, there are plenty of services available to help you out. If you're looking to settle in the Harrisburg area, PennLive offers a handy landing page packed with information geared toward first-time homebuyers. Using the tools provided there, you can read up on mortgage types and search for homes on the market.

Determine Aid Qualifications

Before you go off and make an offer on a home, you'll want to find out if you qualify for any type of federal or local aid or incentives. Finding these will take a bit of research, but it'll be well worth your while if you qualify.

For those of you looking to settle in the Harrisburg area, Dauphin County offers the First-Time Home Buyers Mortgage Program, which provides loans and subordinated mortgages to qualifying buyers. To qualify, buyers must complete an accredited counseling program. Once accepted, Dauphin County officials may review you periodically to ensure correct usage of the funds.

Buying your first home is a tremendous task -- one that requires a lot of research and planning. It pays to take your time and think things out. Start with separating your wants from your needs and determine which mortgage type fits your financial situation. And before making any offers, make sure you know if you qualify for any local or state aid programs.

Once you have these steps taken care of, you'll be well on your way toward settling in the lovely City of Harrisburg!

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